Tuesday, 3 May 2016

2016 budget: NASS slashes padding from N500bn to N75bn

President Muhammadu Buhari is warming up to receive a reworked copy of the 2016 budget any time this week from the National Assembly following the agreement by the lawmakers to remove most of the unbudgeted items they introduced into the fiscal document for pecuniary gains. 

According to sources known to Vanguard, the lawmakers had realized that it was wrong for them to have usurped the functions of the executive by introducing items not contemplated by the Presidency into the budget and illegally transferring capital votes to such items. The source said that given the furore that had attended the budget, the National Assembly Committee on Appropriation and Finance had opted to drop its tough stance against the Presidency and remove the vexatious issues that made President Buhari to reject the budget. 

A top source close to the budget document told Vanguard that the lawmakers had agreed to expunge all the illegal projects estimated at about N500 billion, which they inserted into the document for the President’s assent. The source said that the lawmakers had since read the body language of the President that he is not going to shift his grounds as far as the budget is concerned and had decided to remove the vexatious areas to allow peace to reign in the interest of Nigerians. 

Under the new arrangement, the lawmakers are willing to slash N500 billion which they illegally transferred from key national projects to ‘constituency projects’ to a more reasonable and tolerable N75 billion. 

The lawmakers came to the decision when they got wind of the resolve of Buhari not to listen to any of them until the distortions done to the budget were removed with immediate effect. A senior Federal Government official, who is familiar with the budget, confirmed to Vanguard, last night, that the Presidency would not have minded if the insertions done by the lawmakers were not significant enough to affect the overall performance of the budget. 

“Now if they have reduced their distortion from N500 billion to a manageable N75 billion, it is very likely that the President would gladly assent to the budget,” the official said last night on condition of anonymity. “This President does not want to sign a budget that will not allow him to deliver on his promises to Nigerians and draw the country backwards instead of moving forward,” the source added. 

Asked if the Presidency would still take steps to sanction those who colluded to distort the budget, the source said the Presidency was keener on implementing measures to reflate the budget than imposing sanctions on erring elements for 

Meanwhile, the National Assembly may today forward the amended version of the budget to President Buhari for his assent. It was gathered, last night, that the 10-man committee set up by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, is still working on the grey areas that caused the delay which made President to withhold his assent. It was further gathered that the committee might round off its assignment today for onward transmission to the President. 

The committee, Vanguard reliably gathered, has been meeting at Transcorp Hilton to avoid the prying eyes of journalists from getting details of their corrections on the budget. A member of the committee, however, confirmed to Vanguard last night that “we’re working round the clock to ensure that before midnight today (Monday) all the differences would have been properly ironed out. “Immediately we achieve this, we’ll transmit it to the executive arm for the President’s assent.”



Vangaurd

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